16. BUSH-MOSBACHER-BAKER & THE LEAKING OIL BARGE
When three of the most powerful political men in the United States
have a little business -- on the side that reeks of conflict of interest,
you would think the mass media would be interested. But you'd be wrong.
Common Cause Magazine examined a financial interest in a Houston-based
oil tank-barge business (Hollywood Holding) shared by President George
Bush, Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher, and Secretary of State
James Baker and found it deserved widespread media exposure for at least
1) the Bush administration has proclaimed itself the environmental
administration; 2) the tank-barge industry is a major polluter of U.S.
waterways; 3) the company that manages the Bush-Mosbacher-Baker barges
is one of the largest tank-barge companies in the United States; collectively
its barges, which carry petroleum products, have spilled upwards of
200 times since 1980, government documents show.
The Common Cause Magazine research revealed that:
* President Bush invested $50,000 in the barge partnership Hollywood
L.P.G. 2 in 1978. He already has earned about $130,000 on his investment
and will continue to receive about $20,000 a year for the foreseeable
* Commerce Secretary Mosbacher, whose agency monitors U.S. waters
for pollution, has a 25-percent share in the 220-barge fleet of Hollywood
Holding which has been responsible for at least 200 oil spills between
1980 and 1989.
* Secretary Baker has invested $175,000 in Hollywood concerns since
1978. More than half of the 24 barges Baker has invested in have polluted
at least once since 1980, according to Coast Guard documents.
Although they carry much smaller loads, tank-barges can cause more
total pollution than tankers since they pollute inland, in bodies of
water that are more fragile ecologically than the open sea.
According to the most recent Coast Guard information, tank barges spilled
more than 4.3 million gallons of oil and other hazardous substances
during 1983 and 1984, compared with 2.1 million gallons spilled by oil
tankers during that time.
Congress is considering oil spill legislation that could require double
hulls in both tankers and tank barges. While barge interests argue that
the double-hull provision is economically infeasible and would result
in only a modest reduction in pollution, the Coast Guard says that an
entirely double-hulled fleet would reduce total barge pollution by 80
percent. According to a press spokesperson in the Department of Transportation,
the Bush administration is not in favor of phasing out single-hulled
vessels but is in favor of further study.
President Bush is apparently aware that mass media exposure of his
tank-barge investment could be politically embarrassing. On April 10,
1989, a little more than two weeks after the supertanker Exxon Valdez
gushed oil onto hundreds of square miles of Alaska's Prince William
Sound, Bush put his partnership interest into a qualified blind trust.
This means it will not appear on his future financial disclosure statements.
Nonetheless, thanks to the exhaustive investigation by Common Cause
Magazine, it already is on the record and now deserves mass media attention.
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: TODD BORST
SOURCE: COMMON CAUSE MAGAZINE, 2030 M St., Washington, DC 20036
DATE: March/April 1990
TITLE: "Three Men and a Barge"
AUTHOR: TERESA RIORDAN
COMMENTS: Considering that this is a well-researched, well-documented,
and well-written article that ties three of the most powerful political
men in the United States (including the President) in with the pollution-prone
oil tank-barge industry, you would expect that it would attract some
mass media attention. But investigative journalist Teresa Riordan says
you would be wrong. "To my knowledge," Riordan reported, "the
subject matter received no exposure in the national press." She
conceded that the story was difficult to get and immensely complex --
"pieced together from four separate Coast Guard FOIA requests,
SEC documents, and state incorporation papers." But, even after
the potentially explosive story was published in Common Cause Magazine
in early 1990, there was little, if any, interest shown by the mass
media. "My story was mentioned in the Austin American Statesman,
the Village Voice (Jim Ridgeway's column), and several small to midsize
newspapers. However, much to my surprise, the closest this story got
to national exposure was a mention in the Chicago Tribune's magazine
review column." Riordan said it's important for the public to be
aware of the story since it helps explain the toothless legislation
that finally emerged from Congress. Also, she added "The Gulf (of
Mexico) Coast is an environmental nightmare that no one is paying attention
to -- because the spills are small (though numerous!) and occur in remote
(though ecologically fragile!) areas." As Riordan pointed out,
the obvious beneficiaries of the lack of media coverage given this issue
are George Bush, Robert Mosbacher, Jim Baker, and the tank barge and